Are Rawhides Bad For Dogs And Puppies?

Note: Are rawhides bad for dogs? Do your own research, of course. What I give my dog should not determine what you give yours. 

I used to give my dog rawhides of all kinds – those white, knotted rawhides, rawhide chips and those little rawhide sticks.

Ace would chew them all, and he never had any issues.

Rawhides are processed animal skins (typically beef or pork, sometimes buffalo). Obviously they’re not “raw.”

A few years ago I started hearing from other dog owners that rawhides are bad for dogs.

The warnings I received just for mentioning the word rawhide were:

1. Dogs can’t digest rawhides “at all.”

2. Rawhides are made with chemicals.

3. Rawhides are a choking hazard.

4. They “will” cause an intestinal blockage.

So without doing my own research, I stopped buying rawhides for Ace.

To be honest, something even worse happened.

I stopped buying chews for my dog all together because I was afraid everything would harm him! It seems everything comes with a warning these days. Fear is a big marketing tool.

When I do buy chews for my dogs today, my list includes:

Obviously no chew or bone is 100 percent safe.

But are rawhides bad for dogs and puppies?

Are rawhides bad for dogs


Since we recently got a second dog, I wanted to re-visit rawhides and make up my own mind. 2018 update: My senior dog Ace has passed away. I give my young dog certain rawhides on occasion.

I decided I’m comfortable adding the right types of rawhides to the mix for both my dogs in moderation.

Rawhides are not the greatest thing in the world, and there are slight risks to feeding rawhides as there are risks to giving any other type of chew or bone.

So let’s re-visit those “warnings” I mentioned and see if there’s any truth to them.

1. Dogs can’t digest rawhides. True or false?

False.

Millions of dogs consume and digest rawhides with no issues. They eat small pieces at a time.

The potential problems occur when a dog swallows large chunks, “knots” or soft, unraveled strips of rawhide. In rare cases, dogs are unable to digest or pass these large chunks.

Safety tip: Choose rawhides that are large for your dog and take them away when they become soft or small enough to swallow.

2. Rawhides are made with chemicals. True or false?

True, some more than others.

There are a lot of articles out there on how rawhides are made. It’s not pretty.

Rawhides are a by-product of the leather industry, so you can only imagine the kinds of chemicals used for preserving and cleaning the hides as they are made and shipped in various areas of the world. Here’s a pretty fair article from the Whole Dog Journal on how rawhides are made.

You can also find rawhides that are made right here in the United States from start to finish and with fewer chemicals.

A brand I trust:

Wholesome Hide

Wholesome HIde rawhides

Click here to order Wholesome Hide on Amazon

Safety tip: Don’t buy just any brand. Don’t trust labels that say “all natural” or “made in USA.” Instead, do a lot of research on how the exact product is made start to finish. Ask questions if you can’t find the information. Brands that care will be happy to answer your questions in details.

3. Rawhides are a choking hazard. True or false?

True, although rare.

Any type of chew or bone for dogs can be a choking hazard.

Rawhides have a bad rap because:

A. They get really “gummy” as they soften so it’s easy for a dog to swallow a long strip of rawhide.

B. Some dogs gulp or swallow the knotted ends or large chunks of rawhide. Ace does this!

C. Some people give their dogs rawhides that are too small to begin with.

Safety tips: Choose large rawhides. Avoid rawhides with knotted ends. Take the rawhide away once it gets soft and “gummy.” Take the rawhide away once it is small enough for your dog to swallow. Supervise.

4. Rawhides could cause an intestinal blockage. True or false?

True, although rare.

You will hear stories about dogs that needed surgery to remove a rawhide, but how many millions of dogs chew rawhides with no issues? For me, it’s about knowing your dog, supervising and taking the rawhide away before your dog has a chance to gulp large chunks.

Other types of bones and chews such as antlers or raw beef bones can also cause an intestinal blockage.

Additional concerns with rawhides:

1. A lot of dogs seem to have beef allergies and most rawhides are made with beef. If that’s the case, I recommend rawhide made from buffalo hide.

2. Some owners report rawhides give their dogs upset stomachs due to contamination. This is why it’s so important to research exactly where the rawhide is coming from.

Are rawhides bad for dogs and puppies

No dog bone, toy or chew is 100 percent safe.

Every type of chew out there has likely caused a dog – sometime, somewhere – to choke, get sick or have an intestinal blockage or need emergency surgery.

If you have a favorite “go to” chew for your dog, it’s probably considered “dangerous” by some other dog owner somewhere.

Examples:

  • Antlers are very strong and some dogs could break their teeth over time.
  • Raw beef bones can break or get lodged in a dog’s intestines.
  • Cooked bones you can buy for dogs at pet stores or grocery stores can splinter and cause internal damage.

But dogs should chew SOMETHING!

  • chewing keeps their jaws, teeth and gums healthy
  • it’s something fun for them to do & a stress reliever
  • if we don’t provide them chews, they’ll find something

If you decide to feed rawhides, here are my tips:

1. Know your dog.

All dogs are different, and you know your dog’s chewing style best.

2. Choose the brand wisely.

Research and ask questions! Know exactly how the rawhide was made from start to finish. Find out where the cattle were raised, what tanneries the hides were sent to and in what country. Avoid products that were shipped to or from tanneries in China. Avoid the bleached white rawhides. Ask what chemicals were used for cleaning the hides. Finally, read the ingredients. If you can’t find these details, don’t buy the product.

3. Choose a larger size & supervise!

Throw the rawhide away once it’s small enough or soft enough to swallow.

So those are my thoughts. Let me know yours in the comments!

I plan to give my puppy and my adult dog an occasional rawhide in the future. I’m nervous about all types of chews, but rawhides are one of the options I’m more comfortable with. Like I said, not all rawhides are the same. It’s about finding the best option for your unique pup.

If you’ve fed your dogs rawhides for the last 30 years with no issues, there’s probably no reason to change. If rawhides make you nervous, there are plenty of other options available.

Do you give your dog rawhides? What else do you give your dog for chewing?

*This post contains affiliate links.

Related posts:

What kinds of chews are best for puppies?

Which raw bones are safe for dogs?

44 thoughts on “Are Rawhides Bad For Dogs And Puppies?”

  1. In this information age it seems like if one dog has a problem with something it frightens 100,000 dog owners who avoid the cause of the problem. I’ve never had a problem with rawhides, but I’ve always followed your excellent advice.

  2. Ten days! I’m so excited for you!
    This is some really good information. I didn’t know the knotted parts were the ones that usually caused problems. As someone with a dog who has a history of resource guarding, I’d advise that anyone who plans to take a rawhide away when it gets gummy have something really cool to trade it for, like a lump of chicken breast.
    I think you’re right; there’s no way to find something 100% safe. Just a few days ago my husband laid a backpack on our bed and we set about playing a game on our computers. I turned around to find that Hiccup had somehow managed to get a strap from the backpack wrapped around his neck to the point where he couldn’t move and we couldn’t even get a finger under it. It took both me and my husband to untangle it; one to hold the dog up while the other untwisted the backpack. It freaks me out because if we hadn’t been home I think he may have panicked and strangled himself!

  3. Fantastic post! I believe rawhide is dangerous and choose not to feed them to my dogs, because of one bad experience that nearly had is to the emergency vet. Like you stated, all chews can be dangerous – we have to know our dogs.

    I give our dogs raw meaty bones, which makes veterinarians cringe. I also give them bully sticks (they can swallow whole and choke or have a blockage), fish skins (have to worry about toxins in the ocean), and no-hide chews, which I just discovered and the dogs love.

    I’m probably going to read soon that they’re dangerous too. 🙂

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Just about everything freaks me out, to be honest! I’m a worrier. I still give Ace Nylabones and I remember you had a post about how that didn’t go well with your pack. You just never know!

  4. We used to have rawhides all the time, but Katie was also sick fairly often. After we started hearing they were not good for dogs, we stopped buying them and only have natural chews now such as bully sticks, dehydrated ears, etc. We are all much happier, and Katie has not been sick in ages. For us no more rawhides.

      1. I never gave my dogs rawhides after hearing they were bad. I always stuck to nylabones and Greenies. Was wondering a few things though. Are greenies okay for dogs? also I don’t buy food with red dye in it cause i heard it can cause kidney problems in some dogs especially litle ones and I’ve got a little Chihuahua mix now. Any truth to this?

        1. I give my dog these treats called “smartbones.” Theyre a rawhide alternative. Shes loves them, no ill effects so far. Two downsides are all of the flavors except the “dental mint” contain Red 40 dye and the product is made in China. I didnt know about beef tendons. I am going to pick some up this weeky to see if my picky girl may like them. Shes very hard to buy treats for! Somethings that even look good to me she wont eat!

  5. Just about every dog I’ve ever had would wolf down those rawhides. I stopped giving them as well when I started hearing all the scary stories. Since I can’t trust my dogs not to wolf down big chunks and since I’m not comfortable with the chemical treatments, I’m still not going to ever give them. Maya and Pierson get antlers. Yes, there is still a risk. But they have yet to break one. The most they’ve done is ground them down small enough that I’ve had to throw them away.

  6. I agree with everyone who says you have to know your dog. I was told not to give rawhide. I abide by that. However, I give raw meaty bones and bully sticks, and I’m sure there are hazards associated with those too! I think you just have to make the most informed choice you can, and be willing to change if something doesn’t work for your dog. By the way, I learned the hard way on dried rolls of fish skin. Worst smells ever upon exit…

  7. peggy Schultz

    This is a great article full of lies of great information. I have heard all of the same warnings and have been skeptical to give my dogs rawhide. However, I have also thought about how much of these products are sold daily and I have never heard of a lawsuit. Thank you for this helpful information.

  8. I have a rawhide “ish” question: my older dog, who is a resource guarder, used to enjoy rawhides and chews. Since we got a second dog two years ago, she no longer eats her chews. She takes them to her bed and guards them. Sometimes she just lays on them/holds them in her mouth and growls at everyone. I’ve tried separating the dogs when they have treats, but it doesn’t matter. It’s like having a chew toy completely stresses her out! Ideas?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’ve seen that happen with quite a few other dogs. They don’t give the rawhide (or other type of bone) the time of day until another dog walks by and then they hold it and guard it like it’s gold. I’m not really sure what the answer is. Maybe try a different type of chew and try separating them again. Or maybe just stop giving them chews, but then they’re missing out on the benefits of chewing to clean their teeth. Hopefully someone else can chime in with some ideas!

  9. Great information. We haven’t provided rawhides at our house in years because we had two dogs and they would fight over them. Now that we’re down to one dog, I’ve thinking about getting them again. I remember the white kind upset our springer’s stomach, so I won’t be buying those. I will pay better attention to the label if and when I do decide to get her one. One other thing I’d add is that if you do use rawhides, use in moderation. Like usual, right? Thanks for the info.

  10. Thanks to Lindsay for this thorough, fair and useful information. I tend toward other school of thought: Dogs don’t need to chew bones (thus rawhides and other chews); I got this thought from a veterinarian’s post a few years ago. My idea is similar to this thought: Red wine might help in reducing blood clogs in human’s heart and reducing chances of cancers, but don’t start drinking if you don’t have the drinking habit. There are always cheaper and safer alternatives to dental chews.

    I guess that rawhides are used to clean dog’s teeth, strengthen jaw strength, pass time for boredom, and nutritions. However, I think a good alternative strategy could be: brush the dog’s teeth with doggy toothbrush and toothpaste, give the dog adequate exercise to rid of boredom and provide nutritious foods.

    I do give my Rottweiler raw pork neck bone every other day, and at least one raw chicken drumstick for her dinner, but I might stop because my dog might not really need port neck bones. She has dental chews, Nlabones, antler, rawhides and sanitized big beef bone available at any time; but I believe dogs don’t really need them. I myself don’t chew bones at all; I brush and floss my teeth after each meal, and I drink milk, and get enough sun and exercise.

    Disclaimer: I learn from the best, in other words, I learn from you. If I express some wrong ideas here, it could be your fault.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I think you made some good points. Do you brush Seven’s teeth? I don’t brush Ace’s teeth but plan to brush our puppy’s.

      1. Yes. I brush Seven’s (the female Rottweiler) teeth daily, not long after adopting her, with Nylanbone toothbrush for dogs and Sentry Petrodex Enzymatic Toothpaste for dogs. I found the mentioned products on Amazon.com; both are inexpensive and have good reviews.

        I think that I should stop giving Seven pork neck bone soon to avoid potential tooth cracks after reading this “… Many people do not know that tennis ball fibre is highly abrasive. Most dogs that play with tennis balls wear their teeth down by middle age and some have virtually no teeth left when they become seniors…” from Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM on this web page titled “Dangers To Be Aware of if Your Dog Loves Ball Play”.

        After reading many of your concerns about the unhealthy and untrustworthy food sources aspects of commercialized dog foods, and other advocates’ voicing feeding dogs the natural ways (like raw feeding), I become giving Seven less commercial products in the past few years; instead her treats are more of my lots of hugs, praises, my showing of energy, walks, weekend dog beach socializing; and a few times a year of backpacking in the mountains.

        One of my neighbors loves Weimaraner. His 1.5 years old female Weimaraner named Gracy is always shy: hiding between my neighbor’s legs when I am approaching, even stopped at 3-5 feet distance. He has Gracy since her weeks year old.

        Wish your new baby Weimaraner well: joyful, vivid and warm in personalty.

  11. Sandy Weinstein

    i dont feed my girls rawhide because they cant digest it. i also have a rule of thumb that if i cant make a dent in the treat like bully sticks, etc. then it is too hard for my girls. no deer antlers, my vet said last christmas she got tons of calls from people that said their dog have cracked or broken a tooth. i have small dogs and their teeth are more fragile than larger dogs. i also dont give my dogs bones.

  12. No, we don’t give rawhides. Last time I budged and got Cookie a dental rawhide chew, she indeed could have choked if I wasn’t around. Plus I never liked giving them to start with. We give raw meaty bones, bully sticks and carrots.

  13. This is the best article on Rawhides written. Yes they warn now about rawhides. My Matthew is 4 1/2 and since he was a puppy I used rawhides. But he is small and cant really do much but I do watch and supervise. I still have some here for years he tries to gnaw at. I do use bully sticks now more and did as a puppy. I NEVER HAD A PROBLEM WITH HIM CHEWING ANYTHING UP AS A PUPPY BECAUSE HE ALWAYS HAD CHEW STICKS OR RAWHIDE> Now reading these articles . I supervise and get rawhide’s much bigger and I know he will never do much with them but gnaw on it. I do make marrow bones very often. I get them cut at the market about 2 inches think and I bake them in the toaster over with a little water so they are not raw. I cannot stomach raw , sorry. But again never had issues and he eats the marrow and chews the edges and no splintering either I think this is the best article written on rawhide and chew sticks on facebook.

  14. Nancy Pumphrey/ Ridgeback Momma

    We stopped giving rawhides several years ago. We get raw frozen marrow bones. I look for the large ones so they can’t get stuck in their throat. When they have eaten all the marrow, I stuff it with Natural Balance lamb roll and refreeze. I don’t like the flavored marrow bones in the pet stores. They splinter. The raw marrow bones do not.

  15. Some dogs are sensitive to rawhide and some aren’t. I totally agree that you should research the brand of chew before buying it. My dogs are picky about what rawhides they’ll chew. My vet told me compressed rawhides are good for teeth cleaning (the kind that are many layers pressed together, not the ones made of shredded bits of rawhide). My dogs especially love Red Barn Bully Slices, which are sliced cow ear coated with bully flavor. Made in USA, no chemicals, and keeps their teeth sparkling white and gums healthy.

  16. I gave my goldie rawhides when she was around 6 months old – 1 year old. Every time, it gave her major diarrhea. She would leave a mess in her crate and have diarrhea around the yard for at least 24 hours. I gave her a marrow bone from the butcher (which I baked at 350 for 45 mins) instead. But she got fat from those. Now, I just give her the occasional antler or knuckle from my local pet shop. And she still needs to lose 5 lbs!

  17. I’m happy and glad you’ll be getting a puppy and I wish you all the best. What a lucky puppy too!:-). Thank you SO much for this really informative and important article. I will share it to n my dog/cat facebook page for everyone… I read several months ago about not give your dog rawhide so quit giving them to our daughter’s dog but you help clear the air. Thank you.:-)

  18. We gave Haley a few rawhide chews when she was young, but occasionally she would throw up pieces of rawhide so we switched to other types of chews. Her favorite has always been antlers though. I’m so excited for you guys with the new puppy coming soon! 🙂

  19. I have been using rawhide since my Matthew was a puppy. It kept him from chewing anything he should not and never did. He also get bully sticks and antlers too.
    I buy them big so he cannot really swallow it , He is a shih tzu. He still has ones he gnaws on since puppy. The ones that could get too small after chewing I take them away and give larger ones. He loves to chew daily, but only if I am there with him watching him,.
    Never had any issues ever. I did start to read where they are made and do not use the ones made in China as they say dont. But before the warnings I did use made in China ones and never any issues. He is now 5 and still chewing , although he prefers bully sticks to anything else.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’ve been giving my guys a lot of Bully sticks lately but as I said in the post I’m comfortable with the right rawhides too.

  20. I know absolutely nothing about chew sticks…so this article is super helpful. I’ve been hesitant on what to buy her…now I can make an informed decision. thank you!

  21. my last 2 dogs were/are Huskies and those girls just had/have little to no interest in fetch.
    with that said both of them seriously chew their food. as an example Okami (my current girl) licks up a few pieces of kibble stops and chews them up then goes for another “mouthful” of kibble until she is done eating. she also “self regulates” food intake (better than I do) I usually giver he a certain amount of food 2x per day, but there was this time when I spilled a bunch of kibble on the floor around her bowl. she ate what she wanted from the kibble on the floor, and left the rest (and what was in the bowl) for later.

    as far as bones I gave her the “big no no” bones aka raw beef leg bones and both meg (last dog) and Okami never seemed to have any issues chewing them. I know meh had actually chewed one of the bones I gave her that was ~12-16 inches long until it was closer to 8 inches long.

    I rescued Meg from the humane society when she was ~4 years old, and she passed away at ~12.5
    Okami was ~18 months when I rescued her and in January I will have had her for 2 years. (now if I could convince her to stop digging up the mole tunnels in my front yard…. )

  22. I’m not a fan of the regular knotted, white rawhides you can find in most grocery stores and/or the big pet stores because they’ve been treated with chemicals so much. I found out about organic rawhides last year and gave the pups some – that particular kind wasn’t bleached or treated with any other chemicals/glue and was dehydrated in the sun.

    It had a beautiful amber color – looked completely different from the picture that always came to mind when I thought of rawhides, AND it lasted Missy for a full 30 mins, which is a long time for my strong chewer!! I’m always on the lookout for long lasting chews.

  23. Christine Fisher

    I rarely give my boy rawhide but he does love pig trotters,fresh or frozen for breakfast. Not a whole one as they are very fatty, about a half or a third of one depending on the size. Diesel has beautiful teeth, even the vet has remarked on them.i also know that some people do not like trotters but what would he eat if he was a stray or out in the wild. I have been doing this for the last two years with no adverse effects so will carry on until it proves too much for him.

  24. Sandy Weinstein

    i dont feed rawhides anymore. i used to fee lamb’s ear and cow ears only. i made sure to check what country from where they came. however, due to my youngest girls dental issues she is not allowed to have any hard or tough chews.my dental vet says no!. she has a loose front tooth that she will eventually lose. she has had gum graphs twice. she was just born with bad teeth. so no tough chews. i like the lamb’s ear b/c they are not as tough.

  25. I don’t give my pups the traditional white rawhides because of all the nasty chemicals they are “infused” with. I have given them organic rawhides from a raw feeding retailer – they came in a flat square and had a beautiful amber color. They were hand washed, stretched on a wooden frame & dehydrated by the sun, so I was comfortable feeding them and the pups did a good job at eating them at a reasonable pace without any gulping.

    That being said, I do prefer feeding them raw meaty bones such as necks and drumsticks – they keep their teeth clean, exercise their jaws and provide them with the calcium needed for healthy bones. I still always supervise them, but I’m happy to report that they never just gulp them down.

  26. I give my mini Aussie bully sticks from trudog.com, all their products are safe with no preservatives. I don’t work for them I just love their products especially their freeze dried food toppers.

  27. I have a two year old Lab/Border Collie mix that loves to chew. My sister recommended the Himalayan chews made with Yaks milk. They are hard, thick rectangles that vary in size depending on your dog’s size. They work well with my dog and last him quite a long time. They are sort of expensive, but worth it in my opinion. Thanks for all the good information you provide to all of us!

  28. i know this is an old post, but i have been reading your stuff over the passed 24 hours (i pick up a 10 wk old patterdale bitch next week – never had a puppy before)

    When i had my previous dog and had to take him to the vet for the first time, i took his favorite rawhide chew and the vet completley snapped at me, grabbed it off my dog and threw it (because i refused) she yelled at me

    **What do you think you are doing!!! Don’t you know they will *un-spool* in his stomach as he tried to digest it?**

    So glad to see i wasn’t doing anything wrong!

  29. Been following you for a few years. However, just read this via your recent episode on teeth cleaning. Well, actually last year. I’m slow in reading emails.
    Anywho, I had quit giving my Dakotah rawhide bones because of all the scuttle butt about them being bad. AND he developed an allergy that we had to track down and beef was suspected. Turned out to be McDonald’s oils and Gluten. I could feed him beef, chicken and fish IF they were not cooked at McDonald’s. So sad, I work there part time.
    But now I am gonna try your suggestion of the Wholesome Hide. Thank you from me and my Dakotah.

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